Planet View: S13°14.970’ E130°44.698’
Street View: S13°14.970’ E130°44.698’
A couple of hours drive south of Darwin lies Litchfield National Park, where we spent that last few days enjoying all the waterfalls and swimming holes the park has to offer. Litchfield’s main attraction is surely it’s array of waterfalls, Florence and Wangi Falls being the main two cascades due to their ease of access for day trippers from Darwin. The falls in Litchfield flow all year round, fed by sandstone springs that absorb the wet season rains and empty during the dry. The spring-fed nature of the falls results in almost all of the falls being permanently saltwater crocodile free, a welcome trait given some of the warning signs we’ve seen elsewhere in the Top End.
We entered through the southern Batchelor entrance, stopping off at Florence Falls for a swim on the way to our first night’s campsite. After our swim we veered off the main Litchfield Road to tackle a 10 kilometer 4WD track to the Lost City, towering remnants of stone from an ancient time when the area around Litchfield was covered with sandstone. The ancient pillars that remain appear uncannily like ruins of a city, an eerie place to walk through in the middle of the jungle. Further down the road we veered into the parking lot at the trailhead to Tolmer Falls; Tolmer was probably the most majestic of all the falls we visited. Tolmer Falls are closed to visitors, however, as an endangered species of bat inhabit the surrounding cliffs and human interference would threaten their habitat.
Our goal for the first night was the Sandy Creek Campground at Tjaynera Falls, approximately 10 kilometers down a 4WD track from the main sealed Litchfield Park Road. Throughout our travels so far 4WD tracks have often involved corrugations, boulders, sharp shale and the odd creek crossing. The 4WD track into Tjaynera Falls, however, allowed us to test out The Tank in a true-blue Top End water crossing. A bit of a baptism by fire: the crossing into the falls was an 80 centimeter deep, crocodile-infested swamp around 50 meters in length! Our venerable 4WD instructor Tom Brown suggested we walk all water crossings before attempting them and try not to cross waterways deeper than the bottom of our air filter (even though The Tank has a snorkel). At 80 millimeters we were okay with the latter air filter depth requirement, but neither Lisa or I were about to wade through the murky, croc-infested creek to check the stability of the track. So windows down and 4WD low range engaged we motored across the creek praying that all of The Tank’s seals were ship shape, at the same time hoping we didn’t see any red eyes glistening at us from up- or down-stream. True to form, The Tank handled the crossing with ease, we could both practically hear each other’s heartbeats as we exited the swamp, full of adrenaline declared our christening deepwater crossing a victory. We learned later the next day that an unfortunate traveler attempting the creek after us in a smaller rig without an air snorkel had water enter the engine through the air filter and was stuck in the middle of the creek with an hydraulically seized engine. They had to sit in the vehicle waiting to be towed out by park staff later in the evening. No thank you! The photo above was snapped by Lisa as we were crossing the swamp on our way out from the campsite this morning, and the one here to the right is a shot of a Land Rover tackling the water after we’d successfully made it out.
Tjaynera Falls was worth the drive, a majestic waterfall emptying into a huge plunge pool at its base. We hiked the couple of kilometers into the falls from the packed Sandy Creek campground, whilst swimming I asked others in the falls if we could share their campsite for the night as the campground was full when we arrived. We found a friendly couple that was amiable to our company, which was quite lucky as leaving Sandy Creek late in the day would have meant crossing our croc-infested waterway in the dark to find a campsite at Wangi Falls! We spent an hour or two swimming at Tjaynera before heading back to Sandy Creek for the night, crystal clear water and such a relief from the humidity.
We’d planned to meet my cousins, Sophie and Margot, at Tjaynera Falls on our second day in Litchfield, but we didn’t think they’d be up to the creek crossing described above so left Sandy Creek early to head them off on the other side of the waterway. On the way out of Tjaynera Falls we stopped to snap some shots of Litchfield’s magnetic termite mounds, named for their north-south orientation. The mounds are constructed facing the poles to regulate their temperature during the hotter months of the year, they were quite a sight, the ones pictured here are at least six feet tall. We also stopped off next to the most gargantuan of the regular termite mounds we’ve seen during our travels thus far, the one pictured here to the left towering over The Tank, even with Lisa standing on top of the bull bar!
We had a bit of time to spare before heading-off my cousins so we drove up the road to the Wangi Falls campsite to stake out a sleeping spot for the night. Lucky we did so as we nabbed one of the last spots, unfortunate campers filtering through for the rest of the day eyeing off our pad with wanting eyes as they realized they’d have to motor out of the National Park to sleep at one of the distant caravan parks. After hooking up with my cousins, our first ‘house guests’ for the Australian portion of our trip, we spent the day frolicking in the pool at the base of Wangi Falls. Another one the Litchfield’s more popular falls, the swimming area was very busy for most of the afternoon, the cool water a welcome relief from the heat and humidity. Lamb chops for dinner and a fun evening of board games had us in bed around 9:00PM.
This morning we had a gourmet brekky of bacon and eggs, packed up relatively early and headed off for a morning swim at Buley Rockhole. Lisa and I tried to stop off at Buley during our first day in Litchfield but the parking lot was full so we had to jot it down for a later visit. Our early morning arrival today ensured the parking lot was almost empty and we managed to secure one of the many swimming holes for ourselves for the entire morning. I think Buley was my favorite swimming spot in the park, it doesn’t boast the picturesque falls of many of the other attractions at Litchfield, but the cascading water forms a plethora of deep swimming holes along the creek and is absolutely beautiful. I spotted a large water monitor (that’s a big swimming goanna for you northerners) sunning itself next to our pool, something I’d been on the lookout for during our days in Litchfield, so I was excited to finally see one. It was too quick for the camera though, swimming up the Buley cascades with ease at the sign of my approach. We spent a few hours in the seclusion of our Buley swimming hole before packing up and heading back to Darwin. Litchfield, what an amazing place, I doubt there are many places on the planet with such an array of picturesque waterfalls and swimming holes. Definitely worth the visit!
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